5 Reasons 'New Girl' Could Be The New 'Friends'

Could Zooey Deschanel and co.'s sitcom be the best comedy on TV?

In the '90s, Friends was more than just a wildly popular television show: it was the '90s. It documented the living arrangements, social outlook and worldview of the modern thirtysomething. Simpsons might be more iconic, Seinfeld might be funnier, and X-Files might be smarter, but for slice-of-life comedy that both showed you what your life was like and what you wanted it to be, there was no beating Friends. And now, after countless attempts to re-capture that magic, New Girl is coming on strong. Here are five reasons that Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and her pals could be to this decade what Ross, Rachel and the rest were to the '90s.

The Oversized and Underpriced Apartment

OK. Television needs to stop it with these apartments. Has anyone who writes a sitcom ever been inside a New York apartment? Friends tried to provide an excuse about Monica and Rachel’s ornate palace by saying it had been “rent controlled” since Monica’s grandmother lived in it. Whatever. New Girl provides no explanation for Winston, Jess, Nick and Schmidt’s absurd Los Angeles loft with exposed brick and enough room to play their favorite game, True American, with upwards of 25 people. Is forcing fake people to live just a little like the rest of us really asking too much?

That Place They All Eat and Drink For Free

On Friends, it was Central Perk—that coffee shop that somehow paid Rachel’s exorbitant rent and fueled the entire cast with ostensibly free drinks for 10 seasons. The six of them sat there all day, leading viewers to believe it was either perpetually Saturday or they were never working—a point of eternal frustration for many realists. In New Girl, Nick works at a bar in which the cast just seem to show up. It’s slightly less frustrating than the Central Perk idea, because at least we know the cast of New Girl maybe sometimes sort of works, but it’s still a place we all wish we had in our own lives.

The Side Romance We Mostly Care About

We never pined for Monica and Chandler quite like we did for Ross and Rachel because the show wasn’t built around them and it was never intended to be. But that’s the thing about side romances; they’re sort of disposable, and with Monica and Chandler, it could have gone either way and viewers might have been satisfied. Cece and Schmidt could head in a different direction. Either way, their romance provides a nice little sidekick for the main event, and provides a model for us when some of our friends start to couple off. Just because some members of your friend circle might be a little more than friends doesn't mean they're not part of the group anymore.

Nick and Jess vs. Ross and Rachel

A high stakes, chemistry-packed, tension-driven romance can catapult almost any show into the primetime big leagues. Friends laid the groundwork for the on-again off-again sitcom relationship, sprinkling the seasons with moments of charm and giving fans just enough to believe that Ross and Rachel would end up together. Sometimes, all Ross and Rachel had to do was look at each other and the earliest corners of the late ‘90s Internet would be abuzz for weeks. And the 10-season wait was worth the payoff, as just about everyone knows that Ross and Rachel ended up in each other’s arms in the last episode and presumably lived happily ever after forever and ever.

And now, we have Nick and Jess, the non-couple whose entire relationship is a series of yelling matches. The writers have done a sterling job thus far of giving Nick and Jess just enough will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry to give us viewers the hope that maybe, someday, they might. It's a more realistic depiction than, say, the undying love-at-first sight miracle of The Notebook. New Girl, like Friends, taps into our own secret crushes and the fluid uncertainty of the modern dating model.

Friends as Family

On Friends, this was obvious from the pilot, given the show’s apt title. It resonated throughout 10 seasons, though, with an annual Thanksgiving episode where it became clear that these people were much more than six friends who hung out a lot (although, to be fair, they were exactly that). It was sort of cheesy, but the show handled it well by showing how many of the titular “friends” had difficult relationships with their own families. The message was clear: friends can be family without replacing them. Just because family is “always going to be there” doesn’t mean friends can’t too; that’s what the infectious theme song was all about.

In New Girl, the show started as a plaything for Zooey Deschanel’s quirky winsomeness, and has quickly turned into a platform for a group of roommates who, in spite of themselves, actually care about each other. The show sort of fell into this dynamic, when the relatively juvenile depiction of the roommates started to meld into that intangible chemistry for which every sitcom yearns. The show has found itself anchored by this harmony instead of the Deschanel’s vaguely grating nerdiness, and it’s begun to bleed the same message: not all twenty and thirtysomethings are going to live down the street from their families. And that'd be a terrifying prospect if they didn't gather a group of weirdos and goofballs around them that, somehow, become their second family.

23 Comments

Bob Mason

3

Bob Mason commented…

The lifestyles of 'Friends' may have reflected the times, but how are friends of Jesus to relate? May God grant me a heart in tune with His that loves what He loves, recoils at what recoils Him, and loves every *real* person, no matter what their lives are caught up in.

I have a long way to go, but I want the things that necessitated my Savior's passion to never be funny to me.

Jennifer

3

Jennifer commented…

I think the comparison to friends is accurate. But I think this article misses the bigger issue of the lifestyles depicted in this show. While I think Zooey is cute and witty, I recently decided I needed to stop watching this show, because it isn't good for my spirit. I don't mean to come off like a prude, but it saddens me to watch 30-somethings think of nothing but sex and treat it in a manner which is not at all special. The show revolves around sex, drinking, and physical appearance. For me, this isn't a healthy thing to be meditating on. And I don't find there to be much about it that's insightful or redemptive.

Savvy

9

Savvy commented…

Except that there *are* huge rent-controlled apartments in New York. I lived in a great apartment in the nether regions of manhattan where it had been rent controlled. I was subleasing from a woman who got married and was still hanging onto the apartment in place of getting a hotel when she came into visit. Subleasing was technically not allowed, so I was a "roommate" Ha! It was awesome. Los Angeles also has some huge loft spaces in the arts district where no one wanted to live except the young, broke, and foolish artists. That has changed. I could have supported myself by working at Starbucks and sharing the place with roommates and that's what many people actually do. I think what sort of gets me about Friends is that nothing really happened. I think the ultimate sitcom for 30 somethings was Seinfeld. And if you have ever lived in NYC and been looking for an apartment, they have an episode about that.

Ryan Almquist

1

Ryan Almquist commented…

While I think that New Girl is a fantastic show with a superb cast, each episode's undying fixation on sex, sex jokes and the opposite sex wears on me. I love these characters, which is why I keep coming back to see more of them, but the writers often sacrifice their characters' realism for cheap raunchy gags that are convenient for the episode. Hopefully the writers will expand their horizons and give us more hilarious plotlines and one liners that rise above typical sitcom shtick.

Nate Nakao

5

Nate Nakao commented…

I have more hope for this show than for HIMYM (which I'm still stuck watching for almost no other reason than to see how it all ends). I think a comparison to Friends can be made for that show as well. However, there's something much more charming about New Girl. While it's certainly devolved into obsession with sex, I think it handles itself with more respect than HIMYM.

Both shows present similar tropes that connect them inexorably to Friends, though I think HIMYM is much more overt in its "homage" to the original.

All that said, I much prefer the silly antics of Big Bang Theory to the underlying drama in both of the aforementioned shows.

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